The EU’s perspective on the crises in the Middle East and Africa
The crises in Africa and the Middle East were the focus of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels. The President of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Sheikh Moaz Al Khatib, took part in the meeting at the invitation of High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.
Training mission for Mali
Refugees from Mali in a camp in Burkina Faso, July 2012
© picture alliance / Helmut Fohringer / APA
At the beginning of the official afternoon session, the EU Foreign Ministers adopted the crisis Management Concept prepared by EU High Representative Ashton for an EU training mission in Mali (EUTM). The Council underlined the need to proceed swiftly with the planning process.
Following a coup over six months ago, the West African country is now in severe crisis. Islamist groups have taken control of large areas in the north. Both its neighbours and Western countries fear this region could become a safe haven for terrorists.
On 11 November, ECOWAS decided to establish a force of 3300 troops to help resolve the conflict. On the basis of a report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon, the United Nations Security Council is currently discussing a response to the request by Mali, ECOWAS and the African Union to approve and support an international military mission.
Extending the training mission in Somalia
Somali recruits are being trained as radio operators (archive)
The EU is actively committed to Somalia’s stabilization. In April 2010, the EU Training Mission in Somalia was established with the aim of providing the forces of the UN-recognized Somali government with training, especially in mine awareness and fighting in built up areas as well as communications and medical training. The EUTM Somalia has now been extended until the end of 2014. Training currently takes place in military facilities in Uganda and is carried out in close coordination with the leadership of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the United States. There are medium-term plans to move the training programme to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Of the mission’s approximately 130 staff, up to 20 are members of the Bundeswehr provided by Germany.
Concern over the recent escalation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo
Foreign Minister Westerwelle and EU High Representative Ashton
International concern for security and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been growing since M23, a rebel group, advanced into the east of the country in mid November. Tens of thousands are estimated to have fled their homes as a result of the latest violence. The United Nations puts the number of displaced people in the country at over 2.4 million. The EU Foreign Ministers emphasized that it was vital that all those in the region as well as the international community contribute to a lasting solution to the crisis and that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC must be respected.
Increased support for Syria’s National Coalition
Foreign Minister Westerwelle and Sheikh Moaz al‑Khatib
© photothek / Th. Köhler
The situation in Syria was also on the Council’s agenda. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle welcomed the fact that the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, had, at the initiative of several EU Foreign Ministers including Westerwelle, invited the President of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Sheikh Moaz Al Khatib, to attend the Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
“This is a clear sign of increased support for the Syrian Coalition,” he said. “It is a coalition,” he went on, “that represents the legitimate interests of the Syrian people, and we want to see this recognized by the EU.” At the last Council meeting on 19 November, the Ministers had said, with reference to the National Coalition, that they were “legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people”.
Westerwelle said that the meeting in Brussels also served to prepare the meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People in Marrakech on 12 December. He said he thought that the meeting in Marrakech would send the “same signal” of increased support for the Syrian opposition.
Resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
The EU Foreign Ministers underlined their commitment to a negotiated two-state solution, two states existing side by side within recognized borders in security. The Ministers called on the Israeli and Palestinian sides to resume direct talks without preconditions quickly. Israel’s settlement plans in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, especially in the so called E1 area, were emphatically criticized as an obstacle to achieving peace.
Concern over the situation in Egypt
The dispute about the constitutional process threatens to divide Egypt
© picture alliance / dpa
Before the Council meeting began, Foreign Minister Westerwelle said that the situation in Egypt was “very fragile”. “I am very concerned about the situation,” commented Westerwelle, “because we want the Egyptian revolution to be a success.” “Substantial dialogue” and “substantial flexibility” were necessary on both sides, he stated, adding that it was clear that the rule of law and the separation of powers were part of every democracy. “We want to see democratic development in Egypt,” Westerwelle explained.
Other topics included Ukraine’s moving closer to the EU as well as preparations for the 30th EU-Russia summit in Brussels on 21 December.
Last updated 10.12.2012